Karen Hardy (pictured), principal of ACME Insurance Brokers in the regional Queensland town of Tully, says insurers have dropped the ball when it comes to claims services during the pandemic.
Noting her experiences as “frustrating”, she says remote claims handlers and insurance service providers within Australia are justifying their poor performance with weak excuses, such as “having issues” with telephone and internet services.
“We find that there is a common excuse of ‘my internet has been down’ – whether this is true or not cannot be proven, but it is frustrating,” she conceded. “We see massive delays as service providers struggle to fulfil their obligations due to staff shortages and supply chain delays.
“We see simple cash settlements that could be completed immediately are sometimes taking weeks to process. Examples I have witnessed include monthly personal accident and injury settlements, small total loss settlements and property settlements.”
All of these issues, which Hardy says exclude Vero and CGU who appear to have sufficient systems in place to fast track and finalise claims quickly, contribute to the adversity currently impacting insureds and the end users.
It’s also in breach of Sections 9 and 10 of the new 2020 General Insurance Code of Practice, enacted on July 01 this year.
“The new Code of Practice demands that we fast-track support for customers experiencing vulnerability and financial hardship. This means all Australians now sit within the definition of vulnerable,” Hardy continued.
“To continue as normal (pre-COVID-19) is no longer good enough and is a breach of the code’s intention – to act fairly and swiftly when providing services to vulnerable consumers. Our ‘she’ll be right mate attitude’ toward customer service needs to change.”
In response to her disappointing experiences with insurers, Hardy is reminding all members of the insurance industry of their duties.
“We are not just data processors, claims handlers, brokers, call centre operators – we are gatekeepers for our communities and enablers of commerce. We keep the wheels of industry and community rolling,” she continued.
“Without the timely support of the insurance industry many would fail – we really need to remember this and work together for the benefit of all.”
Hardy suggests insurers should observe their competitors and ask, “what are they doing right and how can we copy this?”, claiming there is no competitive advantage in mediocracy.
“Invest in your people and empower them with knowledge,” she said. “We all have pivotal roles to play and we should be proud to be part of an industry that assists consumers and their communities to survive and thrive.
“There has never been a more critical time for our industry to step up and support clients promptly, professionally and with empathy.”
Hardy says poor performance fails consumers who rely on the industry to “fix things” when they go wrong – now, she’s calling on the industry to “act as quickly and professionally” as possible.
“Clients do not have the resources to ‘weather the wait’ while tardy insurers process claims… they need their money now,” she warned. “I know we can do it; we just need to remember that our customers and clients are relying on us to deliver our promises NOW… So, let’s all rise to the challenge.”